Monday, May 16, 2011

Rodney's Ride

In that soft mid-land where the breezes bear
The North and South on the genial air,
Through the county of Kent on affairs of State,
Rode Caesar Rodney, the delegate.

Burley and big, and bold and bluff,
In his three-cornered hat and coat of snuff,
A foe to King George and the English State,
Was Caesar Rodney, the delegate.

Into Dover village he rode apace,
And his kinsfolk knew from his anxious face,
It was matter grave that brought him there,
To the counties three upon the Delaware.

"Money and men we must have," he said,
"Or the Congress fails and our cause is dead,
Give us both and the King shall not work his will,
We are men, since the battle of Bunker Hill."

Comes a rider swift on a panting bay;
"Ho, Rodney, ho! you must save the day,
For the Congress halts at a deed so great,
And your voice alone may decide its fate."

Answered Rodney then; "I will ride with speed;
It is Liberty's stress; it is Freedom's need."
"When stands it?" "To-night." "not a moment to spare,
But ride like the wind from Delaware."

"Ho, saddle the black ! I've but half a day,
And the Congress sits eighty miles away —
But I'll be in time, if God grants me grace,
To shake my fist in King George's face."

He is up ; he is off ! and the black horse flies
On the northward road ere the "God-speed" dies,
It is gallop and spur, as the leagues they clear,
And the Clustering mile-stones move a-rear.

It is two of the clock; and the fleet hoofs fling
The Fieldsboro dust with a clang and a cling,
It is three; and he gallops with slack rein where
The road winds down to the Delaware.

Four; and he spurs into New Castle town,
From his panting steed he gets him down —
"A fresh one quick ! and not a moment's wait!"
And off speeds Rodney, the delegate.

It is five; and the beams of the western sun
Tinge the spires of Wilmington, gold and dun;
Six; and the dust of Chester street
Flies back in a cloud from his courser's feet.

It is seven; the horse-boat, broad of beam,
At the Schuylkill ferry crawls over the stream —
And at seven fifteen by the Rittenhouse clock,
He flings his reign to the tavern jock.

The Congress is met; the debate's begun,
And Liberty lags for the vote of one —
When into the hall, not a moment late,
Walks Caesar Rodney, the delegate.

Not a moment late ! and that half day's ride
Forwards the world with a mighty stride;
For the act was passed; ere the midnight stroke
O'er the Quaker City its echoes woke.

At Tyranny's feet was the gauntlet flung;
"We are free!" all the bells through the colonies rung,
And the sons of the free may recall with pride,
The day of Delegate Rodney's ride.